Ramūnas Bogdanas. A question for Orthodox believers in Lithuania

Ramūnas Bogdanas
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

The Lithuanian Orthodox world, uniting 4% of the Lithuanian population, is completely calm and silent. As if this has no influence on it. However, it does. Greatly even. The basis of the Ukrainian church’s independence is the same, based on which Lithuanian Orthodox believers were incorporated into the Moscow patriarchate. Initially, the Russian empire occupied a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 20th century, the Lithuanian Republic was annexed by the Soviet Union.

Lithuania – still part “all Russia”?

In the Greek language Tomos, it is stated that the Ukrainian autocephaly is based on Ukraine obtaining complete political independence and its political and church leaders seeking church autonomy. That the Lithuanian, Belarussian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, which are subordinate to Moscow, are completely autonomous is simply tales for the naïve. Who has ever seen the head of the current Lithuanian Orthodox believers in the public sphere? Instead of him, a Lithuanian-speaking cleric is sent everywhere because the Archbishop Innocent (Vasilyev) of Vilnius is a Russian citizen sent from Moscow and would likely seem odd to himself by proclaiming loyalty to Lithuania.

In Ukraine, where the Ukrainian Orthodox church belonging to the Moscow patriarchate smeared the defenders of Ukrainian statehood from the start of Russian aggression, the tune of the vassals of the Moscow patriarchate can easily be heard. The Lithuanian-based ideological outpost of Moscow is silent, but should this lead to naïve trust in the Lithuanian Orthodox church for those, who are not unconcerned with the country’s independence? A sleeping bear is not dangerous, but how would it act on awakening? It is not hard to predict simply by looking at the destructive behaviour of the Moscow patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox church’s behaviour.

As Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko put it on the occasion of receiving the Tomos: if the fall of the USSR seems to be the largest geopolitical catastrophe to the Russian president, then the second largest must be the autocephaly granted to the Ukrainian church.

From presidential support to public initiatives, Lithuania has been supportive by all means of Ukraine’s transition into a Western democratic state. The supposedly neutral Lithuanian Orthodox believers are as if inherently placed in the opposing camp, where the flames of aggressive imperial wiles burn.

Moscow has prohibited ecumenical links to the clerics of the independent Ukrainian church for all its subordinate clerics, this including those in Lithuania. They can claim having nothing to do with this story all they want, however the orders levied from Moscow apply to them and they are part of the blockade on Ukraine, silently condoning the continuing occupation of the Lithuanian Orthodox church, which occurred by severing it from its historic links to the Kyiv patriarchate. The Lithuanian Orthodox church is too small to obtain autocephaly, however for example a part of the Estonian Orthodox believers have joined the Constantinople patriarchate.

Historically, Lithuanian Orthodox believers have been linked to the lands of Belarus and Ukraine from olden times and not with Moscow, which incorporated them by force. For several hundred years now, the head of Lithuanian Orthodox believers is a Russian underling.

The Orthodox church stands by the idea that the church follows the state. Under this basis, in 1924, the Polish autocephalic Orthodox church was established alongside the recreation of Polish independence. Back then, Moscow opposed it no less than it did that of Ukraine today and later Stalin forced the Poles to renounce autocephaly, bending the country under his influence further to his will through the Orthodox church’s structure. If you are subordinate to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, as he officially is called, logically it follows that your territory is also that of “all Russia.”

Invisible shackles

While the Lithuanian state is independent, its independence in the Orthodox world is no less than in regard to energy. Up to now, together with Latvia and Estonia, we remain in the BRELL electrical network with Russia and Belarus and through church subordinacy, Moscow has an ideological tendril to influence the hearts and minds of 150 thousand parishioners in Lithuania. No one cares about it because clerics in these churches do not call every day for a jihad against Lithuania. For long years, nothing was done in the energy sector – the lamp remains on and let’s not worry.

When politicians realised that one day the lamp could turn to strangle us, the pursuit of energy independence appeared. We now have gas and electricity import alternatives, which improved our national security.

The idea-based shackles are less visible than the energy ones. Russian street remains in Vilnius Old Town, seeming to be an inaccurate translation, but instead a consciously inserted word by Moscow occupiers to make us imagine that their foot has the historical right to always be here.

The real name of the street is Ruthenian Street because Grand Duchy of Lithuania Orthodox lived in that part of town, who stemmed from GDL Belarussian and Ukrainian lands. They were Ruthenians, who warred against Muscovite Russians for centuries.

The Vilnius Mayor continues his advertising smile and poses in front of the plaque featuring a distorted name because there are no Ruthenian voters to punish for the defilement of their own future. It seems that there may also be a lack of Lithuanian Orthodox believers, who would ask their church, what path it chooses – together with Moscow or its homeland of Lithuania?

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